Singer-songwriter Kathryn Claire released her fourth full-length, 10-track album “Bones Will Last…” that is a listening experience filled with both classical and folk influences. ETV spoke with Kathryn about the making of her half-vocal and half-instrumental album, the story behind her music video for “The Fugue,” and she offered advice for other musicians who are also interested in learning to play the violin.
Kathryn is based in Portland, Oregon, and has created a unique style of music that combines her skills as a violinist, guitarist, and singer-songwriter to deliver fresh chamber and folk experience. Growing up, Kathryn listened to a lot of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell who helped shaped her style, and she was also a big fan of classical violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg who astounded her with energy and vitality with the violin on stage.
Her new album “Bones Will Last” contains five instrumentals and five vocal tracks, providing the best of her talents for everyone to enjoy. She worked on the record for more than two years, trying to find a cohesive sound between instrumentals and lyrical songs that proved to be problematic. Ultimately, it was the violin’s strings in each song that tied everything together.
“Initially there were going to be a lot more songs and not as many instrumentals,” Kathryn said. “Over time I realized that I actually had two albums on my hands. ‘Bones Will Last’ and another more lyrical driven, electric album ‘Eastern Bound for Glory.’ It was a process to realize that I couldn’t put everything on one album. Once I realized that, I was able to listen more skillfully to myself and to what ‘Bones Will Last’ was becoming. I realized that I wanted to place the violin at the center of the album and strip away all percussion or harmony vocals or really anything that I felt detracted from the violin compositions and my voice on the album. It was such a cool process and an exercise in trusting myself as an artist and having faith in what was wanting to come out musically. Technically speaking, my favorite aspect was tracking the multiple violin parts. I love doing that and having the ability to harmonize with myself and build entire string sections. It is amazing!”
Kathryn has played violin on many albums and with many performers, and along the way she has learned how to listen. For this album, she captured what was in her head with the violin and found the melodic and lyrical lines she kept hearing. Once she came up with the compositions she wanted, she worked with Portland musicians Zak Borden (mandolin), Allen Hunter (upright bass), and Don Henson (piano) who all brought their own style to create the album she wanted to create. She has even performed and toured extensively with all three artists.
The theme of the album is about mortality, loss, love and transformation. Kathryn admits to thinking about death often, but more often to ponder rather than thinking from a place of preoccupation. The title of the album “Bones Will Last” refers to what people leave behind when they die in the literal sense, but in the figurative sense the bones represent personality and the other essential things that live on after death.
“I like the idea that at the core each of us have this essence, and as an artist, there is a core voice or aesthetic,” Kathryn said. “I sought the “bones” of my creative being through the creation of this album. I wondered how I would feel if this was my last album, if this was the last musical thing I left behind. I needed to make sure that I said and expressed everything I wanted.”
Kathryn is not sure if her future albums will also be a split between instrumental and vocal tracks. “Bones Will Last” was an experiment and she believes it worked out for the best on this album. Kathryn is already at work on her follow-up titled “Eastern Bound for Glory,” which is a collection of songs she wrote on electric guitar with her current band that features drums, bass, and strings.
“‘Bones Will Last’ is a very special album to me and I feel it stands on its own in my musical catalogue,” Kathryn said. “I could see myself doing more instrumental composition for sure. I loved creating the instrumentals. It really opened a part of me that I would like to explore more. So, the violin and strings will always be a part of my musical voice, I think.”
Several of the tracks on the album received the music video treatment. “The Forest Flower Will Set” is a traditional song that features Kathryn walking into a barbershop and was shot in Tournai, Belgium, by T. Raznor at Christiane’s salon. The spontaneity captured on film is in tune with the liveliness of the song and it’s a nice representation of ok Kathryn’s spirit. Another song on the album with a video was “The Fugue,” a very whimsical-driven song with visuals to match. It was the first official music video for Kathryn and was directed by Martin Vavra of Galaxy Sailor Productions shot in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
“Because ‘The Fugue’ is an instrumental composition, we didn’t have to contend with lyrics that we were trying to somehow represent in the video,” Kathryn said. “That was so liberating. I worked with film-maker, Martin Vavra on the project and he contributed a lot to the vision of the video. The initial idea came from an image I had carried in my head for a number of years. It was a woman on the beach with her hair tied up in drift wood and staked in the sand with shells and feathers all around. A couple friends helped me to make that image a reality and we took a bunch of pictures and documented the process. It was beautiful. When Martin saw that image, he said, ‘That should be a video’ and we took it from there. For me personally, I feel the elements of death, rebirth, transformation, the passing of time, and longing are all elements of the video. The thing I love the most is that everyone has their own interpretation of the images and the video. I love that it is open for people to respond to in their own way.”
Most recently, the title track of “Bones Will Last” received a video of its own that was shot in Director Park in downtown Portland, Oregon on March 8. It was also directed by Vavra and filmed by Phil Anderson and captures the heart of this song and album with a public performance piece.
Overall, for anyone looking to listen to a singer-songwriter with an emphasis in violin playing, look no further than Kathryn Claire. She is clearly one with the violin, and she hopes others will pick up on the instrument. She offered advice for those up and coming musicians who want to take up the violin for themselves.
“I would say, ‘Don’t give up!’” Kathryn said. “The violin is such a beautiful instrument and truly a joy to play. But it takes a lot of practice and perseverance, especially right at the beginning. It is difficult to get a rich tone in the beginning, so the sound can be a bit challenging right at first. Like anything else you might be starting for the first time, I would say, start slow, practice frequently but for short amounts of time, and really fall in love with long notes and playing the open strings. I think making a beautiful sound and loving the voice of the violin is essential before you begin to be able to play anything complex or flashy.”